The African American achievement gap is one of the most pressing problems in U.S. education today. The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in January 2002, greatly increases pressure on states to address the achievement gap in public schools, requiring them to publish test score seperately for racial and ethnic groups and to work to eliminate gaps in achievement. Achievement gap is a contemporary expression used to refer to the differences in the academic performance of subpopulations of students. The African American achievement gap has not closed, although progress is being made. Research literature provides substantial evidence of differences betweeb African Americans and Whites along a number of dimensions ranging from socioeconomic status to academic attainment.
Although some Black students are doing well academically on predominantly White college campuses, many often exhibit a marked decrease in performance from their high school grades over and beyond what is generally expected for adjustment to college-level work. Higher education unlocks many doors to economic, professional, and social opportunities. Student’s educational outcomes are a function of their family background, cognitive abilities, quality of prior schooling, and learning-style preferences. However, prior research suggests that status attainment and human capital variables do not fully explain the gap. Many educators assert that culture impacts learning and achievement, and that changes in higher education are needed based on the richness found in all cultures. The African American cultural orientation suggests that many Black students will perform best in learning environments that are holistic, field-dependent, and high-context. Holistic is characterized by harmony, cooperation, affect, socialization, and community, with relational and creative learning relevant to one’s own experiences. Field-dependent emphasizes learning from a global perspective and the social, interactive aspects of learning. High-context relies on nonverbal, indirect, implicit, and informal communication; high personal, relational commitment; social time orientation; importance of comprehensive thinking versus analytical thinking. Closing the achievement gap in higher education entails considering the varying influences of both African American and hip-hop cultural influences upon Black college students. Excellent schools possess an ethos in which academic success and effort are important. The school must do its part to remove or reduce the impact of challenges faced by minority students by providing a strong social support system that values and promotes academic achievement, and by providing academic and “socioemotional” system to assist students understanding of self, diversity, and their talents. Lastly an important obstacle to closing the achievement gap is the present attitude of many school administrators and faculty members at PWIs, who are more likely to make stereotypical attributions by associating deficits with blacks and superior achievement with whites. Administrators and faculty must learn to regard existing racial and ethnic achievement patterns as unnatural. Those who have a deficit frame of reference turn the focus of the achievement gap away from their own attitudes, beliefs, and practices to those of students. They externalize the problem and fail to see how changes within themselves could help close the gap. The focus of their attitudes, beliefs, and practices must move away from deficit-thinking to equity-thinking. Organizational learning is required to bring about changes in the cognitive frames of individuals so that “the knowledge production itself may become the form of mobilization” that induces individuals to make the cognitive shift (Gaventa & cornwall, 2001, p.76).
The African American achievement gap has not closed. Continued efforts to close the academic achievement gap are essential if we are to have a society characterized by social equity. School administrators and faculty members can help achieve this goal. The achievement gap represents a complex problem with many causes both internal and external to the school. However, African Americans are not monolithic regarding their personal characteristics and preferences. Although many African Americans have similar learning styles and cognitive preferences, theses preferences are not universal among all African Americans.
Why is our education system failing? It must be teachers. It must be funds. It must be whatever you want to say but the truth is it’s our culture. A culture that says everything else can be fun and should be fun and entertaining but school. School has to be hard and boring. You shouldn’t enjoy school that’s just weird.
Why is that and how can we fix it? There’s two sides to this problem everything else and school. Everything else doesn’t need to be made less fun but be given perspective that just because they’re more fun doesn’t mean they’re better. School needs to be made more enjoyable so that students can focus because schools are competing with our culture of distraction.
Sports and Pop culture are the two main contenders for power in our culture. It’s gotten to the point that kids assume if you’re on a sports team your grades are easier because you have to practice so they let you off easy. Even if you’re a good student if you’re on the team that’s all they say about you, like your straight A’s didn’t matter (source).
Even when you get to college the institute of higher learning, sports still remains king. As colleges are forced to jack up tuition rates, drop classes, fire personal they still find space in the budget for over 10% salary increases for coaches (source). That’s insane; you can’t even justify that with how much they get back from the games because of all the budget cuts everywhere else on campus. Think about that, we’re outraged about CEO’s giving themselves bonuses as the companies they own go in the red, how is this any different?
We live in a culture where you have people with near encyclopedic knowledge of every NFL team and player but can’t tell you about anything to do with science or history. We expect kids to care about school when we don’t? We expect them not to notice that everyone knows who’s playing for the Patriots but we don’t know who was the first American Patriots? The kids that need to study won’t because we’re basically telling them that it doesn’t matter, “Just join the NBLA, NFL…” The smart kids, the talented ones, they can especially tell that we don’t care about education or intelligence. They get that message every time the whole school cheers for a player but not a single person outside their parents go to the debate team match.
Pop culture isn’t much better. We have the same encyclopedic problem again only now its celebrity gossip. We have an entire industry dedicated to finding about other people’s business for the sole fact that they are famous. The public eats it up, if you took a small part of what the world knows about Lindsey Lohan and put it into medicine we’d cure cancer.
Thankfully the sound bite of “More people vote for American Ideal than the President” is not true (source). The spirit of the statement is still true. How many talented kids have thrown away futures for the promise of fame? How many grades has watching the game cost us? The damage is incalculable; we’re losing future great minds to the empty ideal of celebrity status. We need a culture that praises the smart kid that encourages kids to learn. That shouldn’t be a funded outreach program or extra effort it should be built into our society not an afterthought.
What should we do? How can we fix this problem? We need a change in the culture. There has to be a conscious effort to change how we teach our kids. Any educational reform has to start at the cultural level. We can’t say one thing and do another because that’s what we’re doing now. We tell kids that school is important then go back to watching reality TV or sports and that’s it. They go work hard for something we show every day we don’t see as important.
How can we change the culture? The institution of education has treated pop culture like a disease that must be eliminated to keep kids focused on school and in an ideal world that might work but pop culture is not going anywhere so why not use it? The private sector already has they have entire series of computer games dedicated to making learning fun. Reading Blaster, Math Blaster, there’s SpongeBob games, Scooby Doo games. If you want to find more click on this leak: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_game.
Why can’t we make games that are educational and fun? We want kids to focus on school when we don’t and we want to them to focus on something we’ve made to be the exact opposite of what they consider fun. Instead of trying to force the students to change to that system why not adapt the system to them. They’ll focus on pop culture and sports so why not copy that success. We need to even the playing field between school and entertainment what better way than combining the two?
You’re teaching them about history why not show an accurate movie or have them play a game that teaches about the subject? Have games for math, for science, for English… You get my point. People think that’s giving into the culture and giving up but if it works then do it. This is not saying we’ve lost to the culture of anti-education; we’re making the culture work for us.
I’ve shown how entertainment can be used but so can Pop Culture and Sports. Pop Culture could be adapted to History and Literature. Think about it, using celebrities as analogies to history, relating movies to the classics. It can be done and it will help make the information relatable to the students. Sports could help math, remember your sport fan friends that can repeat statistics like its dogma, why not use that memorization for calculations or relate formulas to sports?
We need to change the culture to even begin to fix the system we have because it’s the base of the system.
This is the blog for our ENG 200 classes. It is a class in Advanced Writing at Morehead State University, and we have focused, in part, on the subject of Education Reform. One of the students’ final assignments was to write a short (750-1000 word) argument essay/blog post on the one education reform they think can best improve schools or education. The blogs you will find here are those essays.
Please remember when commenting (which we welcome) that these are students, young adults, most of whom have never posted or shared anything they have written. This is the first experience with online writing and publishing for many of them. The essays themselves have been vetted prior to publishing by their peers and by me, but I have not heavily “edited” them. The only changes I may have made are to fix formatting or linking errors.
I have attempted to make finding essays easier for readers by providing categories. Browse posts according to their general subject, or simply go through them all.
Each essay is the opinion of the individual student and that student alone. It is not the opinion of the Professor, Lee Skallerup Bessette, or the opinion of Morehead State University. If you have any questions about the course, please email me at email@example.com.